After the Ayatollahs

It’s time for a U.S. policy of regime change in Iran

As instability in the Middle East rises, everything points to Tehran as its fundamental source. Though American leaders might not have agreed on a solution, they seem finally to agree, after 45 years, on the problem: that the Islamic Republic is neither capable of reform nor interested in preserving regional order. The only permanent solution, therefore, is regime change.

For most of the Islamic Republic’s life, there was hope in the free world that the regime was in a rebellious adolescent phase. Eventually, it would grow out of it and become normal. Henry Kissinger commented that “Iran needs to decide whether it wished to be a nation or a cause.”

The election of Mohammad Khatami to the Iranian presidency in 1997 offered the first glimmer of hope for reform. Whether Khatami was a sincere reformist is debatable, but his public statements encouraged President Bill Clinton to try to force a friendly encounter with him in the halls of the United Nations in 1998. Khatami understood that to respond with hostility would undermine his foreign-policy objectives, while friendly reciprocation would be political suicide at home. As the legend goes, he hid in a restroom until Clinton gave up. This story is a good metaphor for U.S.–Iranian relations of the era. American leaders often sought to be on better terms, but their attempts were never reciprocated.

The administration of George W. Bush at first maintained the usual policy of exerting some economic pressure while engaging in minimal diplomacy. As Iran’s nuclear program progressed, the sanctions mounted. President Barack Obama began his presidency by promising Iran’s leaders that if they were “willing to unclench their fist,” they would “find an extended hand from us.” He continued to increase sanctions, avoided military confrontation (warranted though it might have been given Iran’s meddling in Iraq and crimes against humanity in Syria), and engaged Iran diplomatically. Eventually, the two sides celebrated a nuclear agreement that exchanged the lifting of sanctions for the Islamic Republic’s commitment not to enrich uranium past certain limits. The nations’ two presidents even made history by talking over the phone briefly. The Islamic Republic seemed to be entering maturity.

Read the rest at the National Review.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top